The symposium at Salford in May 2009 brought together around 100 experts on the use of digital technology in architectural design. They included architects, CAD experts, people from the software industry and academics. The overwhelming impression was one of transition: people are experimenting, techniques and tools used last year will be superseded by the next, each project is handled differently from the one before. Everything is fluid: representations, tool sets, workflow, team structure, personnel and even philosophy. Consensus was certainly far away, but two ideas were clearly gaining significant traction. One was building information modelling (BIM) and the other parametric design (PD). As the symposium got under way, it became clear that there was considerable polarisation: most speakers (those from the software industry excepted) were proponents of one or the other.
BIM was described as bringing the discipline of database design to bear on the documentation of a building prior to construction. The model is shared by the entire team, describes everything just once, and includes semantic as well as geometric information. It facilitates interoperability, and avoids the inconsistencies that easily arise from multiple redundant representations. It is seen by its proponents as a platform for all kinds of analysis and production processes – and why not design as well?
PD is fundamentally a geometric technique. A design is represented as a Euclidian construction, ...